Chronic misuse of alcohol may reduce brain's cortical thickness and cause extreme harm to frontal and temporal regions, says a new study.
It noted that the more people drink the worse is the damage.
"This is the first study to precisely measure the variation in the thickness of the cerebral cortex, which is the thin layer of neurons that one sees on the surface of the brain and supports all higher-level human cognition," said Catherine Brawn Fortier, a neuropsychologist and researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School as well as corresponding author for the study.
Fortier and her colleagues compared high-resolution structural magnetic resonance scans from 65 participants in two demographic groups: 31 abstinent alcoholic participants and 34 non-alcoholic control participants.
"This approach allowed us to identify very subtle but significant alcohol-related damage across the entire brain revealing two primary findings," said Fortier.
"First, the outermost layer of cortex across the entire brain was reduced in our sample of recovered alcoholics.
"Second, alcohol's effect on the brain is continuous across a wide range of drinking behavior and appears to be dose specific. Pathology is often thought of as occurring as an all-or-none phenomenon-you either have brain damage or you don't. This study shows that the damage occurs in gradations, and the more you drink, the greater the damage," she added.
The study is available online and will be published in the December 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.